19/02/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


Andrew Neil and Tara Mills with the latest from Greece on the debt crisis, John Prescott on police commissioners and an interview with Scottish secretary Michael Moore.

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Coming up in Northern Ireland: Testing times in education - as


schools fight to keep selection, can the Catholic Church break the


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1721 seconds


deadlock? We'll ask Bishop Donal Hello and welcome to Sunday


Politics in Northern Ireland. Cast your mind back to last week when


the Finance Minister told us welfare reform was about creating a


fairer system for taxpayers and getting people back to work. But


what about the changes to housing benefit? It is moving towards an


American situation. And it's more than 10 years since Martin


McGuinness announced plans to scrap the 11-plus, but academic selection


shows no sign of being consigned to the history books. What's the


solution? In a moment, I'll be asking our political guests of the


day for their answers. So, the time for fine words is over.


But as Catholic grammars continue to back selection, the Education


Minister, John O'Dowd, has said it's up to the Church to break the


deadlock. I'm joined by Bishop Donal McKeown. The minister has


thrown down the gauntlet. Where you pick it up? We all recognise, in


education, that the key thing here it is not selection. The key thing


is how do we create an education system for our young people, fit


for the 21st century? This system we have had is a result of another


era. Until the early seventies, those children who do not go to


grammar schools, had no qualifications. In Northern Ireland,


at 40% over our school leavers leave without GCSEs. We have to


find a way of educating our young people with excellence. It is a


mistake to focus on the idea of selection. But that is the focus.


10 years ago, the Education Minister has grabbed the 11-plus.


Do you have the authority to stop schools having the 11-plus? We are


looking to find a way for how every area can look after its children.


And what we come across his parents who say they want the best for


their children. But do you have the authority to Scott -- stop schools


under your control having a selection test? Decisions are made


by boards or governors. They ultimately are the ones who make


decisions about entrance criteria for schools. We have to recognise


the equilibrium between parents and principles, and trustees. They all


have a role to play. The Catholic Church is not a Stalinist


organisation. We are looking to find a way where our society does


not keep avoiding the real issue at how to look after 100% of our


children, and not just 40%. If the education minister it says we must


scrap selection, it would you bring that in it and scrap selection and


I have a merger? The trustees are at looking for a solution for North


Belfast. None of this court will be able to say they stand alone. --


none of this calls. The idea of faith and Catholicism it is that we


are responsible for one another and with one another for global out


comes. Therefore, no one can stand alone. There is a social justice


and moral issue here. But that is what is happening - parents and


trustees are protecting themselves. The trustees are clear - we are


moving away from a selection. Psychologists say you cannot


measure intelligence, in a way that makes you able to allocate two


separate sort of education. That is psychological bunkum. So you do


need to get rid of selection? course you do. Every other society


has done. We have got a mediocre system, precisely because of


academic selection. 40% do not have five GCSEs! Has the commission


failed in its role to convince the Catholic grammars sector to end


selection? We began this process five years ago. We cannot give


everybody... Leadership is about saying, wet your weak crude be


sustainable future for all of young people? -- where can we create. We


are taking a lot of risks to find an agreed way forward. But we all


need to look after everybody, and look out for everybody. Would be


better if tests were made illegal? That will not happen. We cannot


pretend it's something happened, things would be different. But why


a woman not happen? -- but why will it not happen? Because politicians


have argued that tests remained legal. We have to find ways of


reassuring parents, who want good education for their children, but


you do not have to have academic selection. That people need not be


afraid of change, because we were not experiment on your children -


we are looking to find a solid chance a mission to a better way.


We have to challenge those who are concerned only for themselves. --


we are looking to find a solution. Your party is opposed to scrapping


selection. Do you understand and take on board some of these things


the bishop has said? The bishop is a right when he said it legally,


nothing will change. Let us dispense MF - that testing does not


take place in it not selective schools. -- dispense a mirthful


stop -- take place in non selective schools. An example within the


Catholic sector, given to us as an example of a bilateral school,


which has moved away from the selective system - this tests


children very aggressively. It establishes a level of ability, on


where that child should be placed to get the best education. What has


happened within the Catholic sector is a reflection of what has


happened in society - parents still believe, and have that choice, to


make a choice of a school that uses academic assessment. Can we get a


better way of doing it? I believe we can. In discussions I have had,


I believe progress is being made. But that progress will not be made


at the expense of non-selective schools. We have to ensure that we


have a provision which has bought all the children. His there a


double standard in your party? Your party will never abolish selection,


will it? Let us look at the Bishop's record. A Sinn Fein


solution will fail. They did not have the power to prevent sectarian


exams getting started. We need to start from the fact that the


current way we do selection is inappropriate. No one believes


there are merits in subjecting children to exams. What pressure


you put in on the Catholic Church in particular? We need to try and


have a proper political debate. you have been debating this for 10


years? No, we haven't. How many times have children or -- have


people debated the future of education? And one manifesto, for


example, we made recommendations about the types of education. -- in


a word manifesto. There is an awful habit of looking south of the


border. We should not be thinking that way. We should be thinking


about what works here, which are good second racecourse and grammars.


Do we have the courage to build on that? -- good secondary schools. We


need educational excellence, not just academic. Bishop, or back to


the original point, all you do in the meantime? -- what will you do.


We have to face the need for change, and find ways forward as a society.


The danger is that decisions are taken by none education. I have a


passion for it. I told the 23 years. I come with a passion for education.


-- I taught for. We must look after our young people. We cannot just


focus on success of aim minority. We will remain in the doldrums and


the sweet educate all our young people. -- and educate.


Among the raft of welfare reforms heading towards us from Westminster


is a major cut to housing benefit. Welfare rights campaigners fear it


will lead to widespread social upheaval as people are forced to


move home. Yvette Shapiro has been to Derry, where tenants and


landlords are feeling the effects Eamonn Brown is unemployed and


lives alone in a one-bedroom flat in Derry's Bogside. His rent of


more than �80 a week is covered by housing benefit. Under the new


rules affecting private sector tenants aged 24-35, he'll be


reassed later this year, and his benefit will be more than halved.


Eamonn will have to move to a shared house. I am angry about it.


It is not just me, this affect everybody. I will have to live with


other people. The ball who pay taxes will be made homeless because


of these cuts. -- people. Berry has one of the most unemployed places


in Northern Ireland. Landlords have to get the best possible deal


themselves. It is a business, at the end of the day. If it is a


choice between taking reduced rent and no rent, I think I know what


decision the landlord will make. Again, it will vary from place to


place. In some places, they will be able to hold up. In other places,


the rent or be forced down, and somebody may have to move from one


part of the city to another. minister concedes that his


department and the housing executive, which is under his


control, has failed to build enough accommodation for single people,


young and old. A new housing strategy, due to be unveiled


shortly, will contain plans for remodelling existing properties and


building new ones. He won't be drawn on suggestions that landlords


may be able to get grants to convert properties into shared


houses for single people. The changes to housing benefit aren't


just affecting young single tenants. Welfare rights campaigners fear


there will be widespread social upheaval and hardship as a result


of the benefit cuts. It is really moving towards an American


situation, where children are moved from pillar to post, moving schools


within the school year. The difference between us and America


is housing benefit. It is the big difference. There is a danger of


being extremist and alarmist. There may be folk living in houses that


are too expensive for their situation. They may have to move to


other accommodation. Folk move all the time. Last year, more than half


a billion pounds was paid out in housing benefit in Northern Ireland,


an increase of nearly 11 % on the previous 12 months. Almost 280


million of that went to private landlords. It's estimated that the


latest benefit changes will affect around 6000 young people, losing on


average �29 per week. A discretionary payment fund,


operated by the housing executive, is to be doubled in April. Almost


3.5 million will be made available to help tenants who are facing cuts


in their housing benefit. But is there more that Stormont


politicians could do to soften the blow? They could introduce rent


control, they could ensure hardship payments, but they will be


available to everybody. And that those payments will continue.


bear a lot of young people who need housing. You will see people


His Romanes as saying that people need to get on their bikes? -- is


your minister. They need to address the concerns that exist. The


Minister is very clear - it is regrettable that while other


parties have responsibility for housing provision, they have


decided to build three bedroom provisions, as opposed to dealing


with the issue of the housing waiting list. Over half of that is


single parents. There is a legacy there that needs to be addressed.


It was all your fault, then? when you we could build enough


houses. -- if only we could. This is the tip of the iceberg. The


minister for social development is saying this is the type of merger


that will impact even worse than this region. What would you do


differently? We are about to have the acid test of this in the


assembly. I that they step up to the mark -- by the they step. If we


don't stand and a ground here, and have a welfare system for this


region, and we don't do it soon, we will effectively surrender or


control over support for the most marginalised in our society to the


British government. Would you support that? It is in Westminster


that gives us the money to run away services. There are many people,


working families, who listen to this programme, who have concern


about the income they get. The issue that needs to be addressed is


by way of getting a fair and balanced system.


Now for our regular look at the week in sixty seconds, this time in


the company of political correspondent, Gareth Gordon.


A good week for the construction industry as the Executive confirmed


almost �600 million is to be spent on roads and hospitals. But there


was disappointment for those needing answers about the La Mon


bombing. There is very little information. A lot of questions are


left unanswered. Glasgow Rangers faced their most


difficult opponent - the tax man. It was asked why MLAs couldn't be


officially allowed to use iPads in the Assembly, and we learnt


listening is also a problem for these men. I couldn't anything at


all with my left ear. I woke up in the morning. There was no illness


or accident associated with it. And in Derry, the new Peace Plaza


was opened on Valentine's Night - the perfect occasion for couples


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